• Valencia oranges

Valencia in October

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Ahhhhhh, Valencia — a sun-kissed city along the Mediterranean Sea

When I know I’m going to be traveling somewhere, I have a little habit that has developed over the past few years.  It really gets me in the mood for an upcoming trip.  As soon as I have a potential fun destination in my line of sight, I add it to my phone’s weather app.  I love to see the temperature or monitor if there is rain or shine.  I usually do this months in advance, getting to know a place through its weather patterns.  I think, “Oh, today is warm but rainy.  A light trench would be good,” or “Hot day! Definitely time to break out the sundress!”

For the past month, Valencia has been no exception.  Every few days, I checked in with the weather.  The funny thing about Valencia was — it was almost always beautiful sunshine.  And I can tell you that Valencia did not disappoint.  The warm golden sun warmed me every day and was magnificent, setting the scene for all that this bright welcoming Spanish city has to offer.

Valencia tiles

Valencia architecture

The first thing you notice when walking through the city is the grand architecture. Beautiful ornately carved stone facades adorn many buildings and churches all over the city.  Ceramic tiles are placed both indoors and out as decorative and functional features.  Almost every bridge crossing The Turia Gardens, a park running the length of the city, has sculptures of gargoyles or Saints standing guard watching over the citizens as they pass.  As an aside, the Turia Gardens are created out of an old riverbed, which is why it’s so narrow, long, and winding!

As you walk through the lively colorful old town, you see people milling in every corner and square.  Tree-lined streets open onto the Central Market, or Mercat Central.  Kiosk after kiosk sells the most delectable Spanish specialities imaginable.  Rows of dark red jamon drying on hooks, piles of fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses, and eggs, and the freshest seafood you can find, all filling the cavernous space.  My mouth was watering from the moment I entered.

I headed straight for the Pata Negra and bought some slices, then I turned and headed toward the heavenly aroma coming from the stand with freshly baked bread.  After purchasing these, I knew all I needed were some ripe tomatoes and olive oil and I would have the perfect Spanish snack, fresh bread toasted, drizzled with olive oil, topped with a tomato puree, and sprinkled with sea salt.  So delicious.

I walked around the market for a long time taking in the scene.  When I was tired, I stopped at the Orxata stand for a taste of this local beverage made from tigernuts.  You eat it with amazing sweet pastries called fartons — yes, fartons.  It made me smile too.

Central Market Valencia Jamon

Central Market Valencia

Central Market Valencia

At this point, I had worked up an appetite walking around the city, and I had a reservation at Casa Carmela, the best place to get paella in Valencia.   This Valencian classic sits right on the beach.  When you reserve, you must specify either Valencian Paella (made with chicken, rabbit, and green beans) or Seafood Paella.  Paella originates from this gorgeous city, so I opted for the Valencian version. I’ve had the seafood version many times and figured I’d go local this time.

In fact, that is something that I truly believe is important.  When visiting a place, I always try to do as the locals do in order to have an authentic experience.  So when in Spain, it was Paella for lunch, between 2pm and 5pm, and then it was nap time!

Valencian Paella

Valencia Paella Casa Carmela

Valencia beach

After a restful siesta, I was ready to explore again.  The warm Valencian evening air was calling to me and I decided to head out.  I love Mediterranean cultures where entire families congregate on the streets and squares of towns and cities to enjoy a drink and chat with friends and loved ones.  You can see people of every age, formally dressed or just in casual wear, enjoying a small beer or a coffee at a local cafe, or in Valencia, sipping the local cocktail, Agua de Valencia.  It’s made from the sweet juice of local Valencian oranges, vodka, gin, and Cava.  So refreshing and tasty!  You can find the recipe here.  My favorite place to enjoy this was at a super cozy eclectic bar off of the main street in Ruzafa called La Bella de Cadiz.  If you want a great cocktail in a very cool atmosphere, head on over to this place.

Valencia La Bella de Cadiz Agua de Valencia

Beer in Valencia

Mercatbar Valencia

There are so many wonderful places to eat and drink in the city and I’ve listed a few below.  The food is varied and delicious, often with chefs taking local traditions and mixing them up in fascinating ways.  Whether you’re sampling the traditional Jamon Iberico and fried calamari in a typical bar or going for a more modern version of Spanish cuisine at Mercatbar or Canalla Bistro, it’s always fun and wonderful.  Who doesn’t love tuna cold smoked on whiskey-infused planks or Russian salad presented in oyster shells with a garlic foam and dusted with thyme?  No matter what, it’s always a mouth-watering experience.

So, take the time to stroll in this gorgeous city.  Walk through the gardens full of exotic trees and plants interspersed with football fields where little Valencianos are playing and their parents cheer them on.  Stroll down the wide expanse of beaches along the coast and enjoy the palms swinging gently in the breeze.  Explore the ultra-modern City of Arts and Sciences, especially if you have children, and enjoy the spectacular architecture being created there.  I dare you to not dip your fingers or toes in that cool blue water.  I certainly could not resist.

If you’re planning a trip, please let me know.  I would love to chat with you about it.  Hasta luego, my friends.

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Valencia City of Arts and Sciences

Bars and Restaurants:

Canalla Bistro. Carrer del Mestre Josep Serrano, 5, 46005 València, Spain. +34 963 74 05 09

Mercatbar. Carrer de Joaquín Costa, 27, 46005 València, Spain. +34 963 74 85 58

La Bella de Cadiz. Carrer de Cadis, 54, 46004 València, Spain

Casa Carmela. Carrer d’Isabel de Villena, 155, 46011 València, Spain. +34 963 71 00 73

Books to Read to get you in the Valencian Mood:

The Borgias, The Hidden History by G. J. Meyer.  Did you know this famous family were originally from Spain, and many of the buildings from the book can still be seen in Valencia?

Cuentos Valencianos by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez.  Short stories set in the Valencia region by this wonderful Spanish author.

The Perfume Garden by Kate Lord Brown.  For those who like a more modern story of love and secrets.

A Death in Valencia by Jason Webster.  A modern day detective story which takes place at a paella restaurant.



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